Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | It’s been nearly eight years since the PGA of America launched its Tee It Forward campaign. Yet, the majority of golfers have not heeded the advice. As it turns out, old habits are hard to break. For years, visitors to the Myrtle Beach golfing mecca have failed to choose their proper tees. Big hitters who normally play the tips back home automatically try to do so here. And even those who typically select what is considered the standard men’s tees aren’t playing from the correct spot. A course’s design often leaves it playing longer than its listed distance. Forced carries or a need for extra precision off the tee will completely change how you approach the final half of a hole, while doglegs can put a serious crimp in your driver distance. Here are five courses along South Carolina’s northern coastline where going color blind for your tee box selection will serve you wonders, both in terms of enjoyment and success.
Of the four layouts at Barefoot, the Fazio track is the most deceptive when it comes to distance. Consider it a product of the back platinum tees measuring out at “just” 6,834 yards. The problem with using that at the barometer is that the par-71 course features five par 3s and nearly 100 bunkers, many of them in play from the tees. While playing the front gold tees would be too short for most at 4,820 yards, going off from the Greens (5,292) or whites (5,678) is the proper play for just about everyone who isn’t realistically going to break 80 on an average day.
Only the top one or two percent of golfers should probably even think about playing the blacks at Jack Nicklaus’ Long Bay design. The 7,025 yards from the tips isn’t by itself the most intimidating of numbers, sure. But the biggest mistake made here isn’t even those who go all the way back. It’s those who see more than 400 yards shaved off by moving up to the blues and think that’s enough. In fact, we’d recommend that most players max out at the 6,209-yard whites and even consider the 5,715 golds. It will make a significant difference when it comes to navigating slender fairways and a handful of massive waste bunkers.
Arnold Palmer was one of the biggest names to attach his reputation to the Tee It Forward push when it was unveiled, and his layout at the top-flight King’s North was a perfect example of how much choice he wanted to give golfers. The centerpiece of the three-course property features four sets of tees for men and three for women (with one concurrent option). The idea was to ensure that average players didn’t simply move up one spot from the 7,017-yard championship tees and try to cruise from there. Instead, you can attack the tree- and hazard-happy design from a still-respectable 6,024 yards (whites) or 5,662 (blue) with fewer snowmen on the card.
If it hadn’t already dawned on you that you should have moved up a tee box at River Club, it will by the time you reach the par 4 fourth. A little more than halfway into the hole, an 85-degree dogleg right neutralizes your driver by cutting down on distance while adding potential problems from a pair of reachable bunkers (and a pond off the right for righties flirting with a big-time slice). Tom Jackson’s design is also full of water; when it isn’t, the fairways aren’t very forgiving. So those 400-yard drop-offs from the black tees to the whites and then the whites to the golds will come in handy along the way.
TRUE BLUE PLANTATION
Welcome to True Blue, one of the best courses in the area. Now, here’s a 624-yard mega hole to start your day. After that, it’s on a mid-range par 4 with a blind tee shot, then an island green par 3 and another long par 5 that bends in semi-circle fashion around a large pond. Ready to take our word that moving up is a good idea? You certainly will if you play all 18 from the wrong tees. That’s because each of the back three boxes play from 6,375 yards and longer. Instead, give it a shot from the fourth spot, which is a much more manageable 5,736, giving you a clearer look at this magnificent Mike Strantz design.